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Monday, 15 May, 2000, 23:33 GMT 00:33 UK
Analysis: Why Palestinians are angry
Riot in Bethlehem
Bethlehem, May 2000, in the "year of peace"

By BBC News Online's Martin Asser

The anniversary of the creation of Israel is a tense calendar date at the best of times, but the ferocity and scale of the clashes on the West Bank and Gaza Strip on Monday have not been seen for several years.

The Palestinian anger illustrates something few outsiders care to dwell on - that the ordinary people see the peace process as a sham.

With violent protest on the rise in the Palestinian territories, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak is also having to cope with dissent on his own side.

Palestinian fears

Peace negotiations are entering a crucial phase, and Palestinians fear their leadership under Yasser Arafat is preparing to make concessions to Israel on some of the fundamental issues of their cause.



Barak: Peace is harder than it looked a year ago
These include the Palestinian claim for part of Israeli-occupied Jerusalem as their capital and the right of refugees and displaced Palestinians to return to the homes they were driven from by Israeli forces, 52 years ago in some cases.

Most Palestinians believe their leaders have already given up too much for too little.

Promises of accelerated talks and tight timetables fill them with foreboding, a feeling that complete surrender to the regional superpower is coming sooner rather than later.

One year ago, at the beginning of Mr Barak's first year in office, much was promised - a lasting settlement with the Palestinians, peace with Syria, withdrawal from Lebanon.

But all three tracks have hit seemingly insurmountable obstacles and unless there is a miraculous breakthrough somewhere, there is the prospect of a long, hot summer ahead.

Barak's dilemma

The Nakba demonstrations erupted as Mr Barak faced stormy scenes in parliament over the handing over of three villages near Jerusalem to the Palestinians.

It is a plan which has caused enormous tensions within the Israeli coalition, with the possibility of cabinet defections - but this is almost irrelevant to ordinary Palestinians.

This week should have seen the more significant signing of a framework agreement for the final Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement.



Palestinians may not accept a deal without Jerusalem
Mr Barak is more in tune with his rightwing, religious and nationalist partners on the issues involved in these negotiations, and there is a head-on collision with the Palestinian position.

Indeed, there have been signs recently that the Palestinian leadership might hold out for what people see as the minimum components for a lasting peace with Israel.

And on the anniversary of Israel's first decisive victory over the Palestinians, they have given a strong message that there could be another Intifada on the rock-strewn streets of the Israeli-occupied territories if those minimum demands are not met.

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See also:

15 May 00 | Middle East
Violence erupts in West Bank
15 May 00 | Media reports
Chief Palestinian negotiator quits
01 May 00 | Middle East
Barak faces coalition break-up
07 Mar 00 | Middle East
Arafat: Palestinian state 'this year'
08 May 00 | Middle East
Israel makes offer on Jerusalem suburbs
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